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Girls avoiding cut seek refuge at rescue centre

Susan Matinde addresses girls at risk of undergoing the cut at a rescue centre in Kuria East. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

Last Friday, Nancy, a Standard Five pupil at Nyamanche Primary School in Kuria East was doing chores at home when her aunt arrived carrying a shuka, traditional cap, and assorted jewellery.

Some neighbours were arranging seats in the compound and cleaning utensils when she heard her aunt whisper that everything was ready for her (Nancy’s) day.

The girl, a last born in a family of nine, quickly left the compound through the back gate.

“I knew it was my turn for the ‘cut’. Being the last born, and given that I had witnessed those preparations ahead of my elder siblings’ circumcision ceremonies, I knew I had to act fast,” she said.

The 12-year-old then dashed to the home of a teacher nearby and shared her fears. The teacher linked her up with a rescue centre where girls escaping Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) seek refuge.

Nancy is among more than 50 girls who have been rescued from Kuria East and Kuria West in the last two weeks as circumcision season begins.

The girls are in a temporary rescue centre at Tarang’anya Girls’ Secondary School.

Susan Matinde, who is in charge of the centre, said they were expecting seven more girls.

“The circumcision period for girls is always in December. I think with the fiery campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation, the perpetrators are changing tact to confuse the authorities,” she said.

And Mary, 14, narrated how she was informed about her circumcision date and told to prepare. On Sunday, a day before her date with the circumciser, the Standard Eight pupil at Kamamagi Primary School in Kuria West escaped from home.

Thea firstborn in a family of three sought refuge in her neighbour’s home. The neighbour later linked her with Matinde, who took her to the rescue centre.

“I have benefited from training on the impact of FGM so I was afraid to undergo the cut. That is why I sought Matinde’s help,” she said.

She is, however, worried that should schools reopen before the end of the circumcision period, she may find herself back in the hands of her parents who had planned for her to undergo the ‘cut’.

Last month, the Anti-FGM Board held campaigns to persuade the Kuria community to abandon the retrogressive practice.

Matinde said despite the efforts put in fighting the vice, the war was far from being won.

“Our elected leaders and religious leaders have refused to come out and lead the war against FGM. They are actually the ones who even intervene when perpetrators are arrested,” she said.

She claimed that those campaigning against the ‘cut’ have been profiled and were facing threats for derailing what the community terms as an important rite of passage.

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